Brick McMillan is back home in Florida for a funeral—his younger brother's. There have been a lot of deaths in his family lately, his father, his wife and now his brother Stony. However, the night he got home, he was using Stony's computer and got a mysterious Instant Message from a woman calling herself XYZ. She arranges a meeting with him at the Panera in Daytona.
The morning rush at Panera was tapering off when he ordered his coffee and pastry. Finding a table wasn't hard. He sat in the main room, over to one side, near the partition. From here, he could see the back door, but not the front. He suspected that XYZ was a backdoor user. As it happened, he was right.
Brick spotted the tall, trim figured woman as soon as she walked in. Her honey colored hair was pulled back in a loose chignon. She scanned the restaurant, dark glasses raised to her forehead with one hand. She wore a slate gray suit and low heeled black shoes. Her jacket was buttoned, but there was a slight bulge under her left arm. She spotted him on her second pass. Brick held up his coffee, saluting her. Frowning, she strutted across the room, taking a seat across from him at the table.
“You need to work on your entrance,” he said after taking a sip. “I knew it was you the second you walked in.”
“Do you know who I am?”
“By name? No. But my guess is you're a fed, not a cop.” He leaned forward, forearms on the table, the cup between his hands.
Her frown deepened. Her silence demanded an explanation.
“You don't move like a cop. You move like a soldier. In plain clothes, those glasses, shoes you can run in—Fed.”
She flashed a wary smile. Her eyes were a vivid aquamarine. There was a scattering of freckles across her pert nose.
“So, this begs the questions—Why is a federal agent so anxious to talk to my bother? And why does she sound so unconvinced that he's dead?”
He held up a finger, waving it at her as if chastising a spoiled child for bad manners. “The way this works, you introduce yourself. Then we chat.”
“Call me Agent X.” She grinned and a hint of a twinkle lit up her eyes.
“I'd rather not. I quit reading comic books thirty years ago.”
“Colleen,” she told him.
“No last name. So, like Pink or Seal....”
“Something like that.” The smile faded. “Look, Brick, we can tease and flirt all day—”
“Is that what this is?” He leaned forward aggressively. “I thought this was you telling me about your relationship with Stony.”
“It's not an affair.”
“That much I know. My brother's not a cheater. I figure it's business related, but that's a puzzler. My brother was an engineer.”
She sighed, leaning back. “May we start over?”
“Sure.” He wiped his hand on his napkin before holding it out. “Brick McMillan.”
She shook it. Her grip was firm, her palm calloused. She spent a lot of time with that handgun. “Colleen Underwood.”
“I don't know that one—Oh! Rather Not Say,” he chuckled as he translated her acronym. “Gotcha.”
Her lips twitched into a half smile. “Yes, I know your brother. Yes, it's business related. No, I don't think he's dead. If I'm right, he's gone to ground and will contact me soon. He's in danger.”
“How do you know?”
“Because, your brother works for us. He's a spy.”
© 2016 Dellani Oakes